The story of the day is that 9,000-10,000 tickets remain for Saturday’s season opener on the blue turf between Boise State and Troy. The sidebar is those who don’t show this week could miss a helluva football game. The Trojans served as houseguests for Clemson in the Tigers’ home opener last year. You know Clemson—the eventual national champion. The Tigers seemed to shake pesky Troy in the fourth quarter, taking a 27-10 lead. Then the Trojans rallied with two touchdowns in the last five minutes, the second one with 44 seconds to go to pull within 30-24 before Clemson recovered an onside kick to end it. Troy intercepted Deshaun Watson twice and limited the Tigers to 122 yards rushing. Clemson’s the same team that blitzed Ohio State 31-0 in the CFP semifinals before dropping Alabama to win it all.
So back to the crowd thing. Boise State fans have been waiting for an afternoon start for four years. They’ve got it with Saturday’s 1:45 p.m. kickoff. Not meaning to toss an excuse out there, but the last time Boise State played a home afternoon game, on September 7, 2013, the high temperature was a below-normal 82. It was a perfect day for football, and it was the weekend after Labor Day. Attendance was 33,293 for Tennessee-Martin. This time? Hydration will be in order, with an expected high of 94. But there’s more to it than that. There’s still a little bit of a hangover from the loss to Baylor in the Cactus Bowl, and the trickle-down effect is that Labor Day weekend becomes a distraction. A count of 30,000 would be a win. And did I mention Troy is a formidable foe?
If Boise State’s chemistry is what players say it is this season, it could be a difference-maker. The great Bronco teams of last decade and earlier this decade parlayed chemistry into on-field grit, and a lot of late-game heroics on the way to all those 10-win seasons, conference championships and Fiesta Bowl wins. Talk is cheap, but this sounds sincere. At yesterday’s Bronco Athletic Association Football Kickoff Luncheon, Avery Williams, Brock Barr and Archie Lewis went right to the camaraderie card without being asked. “The focus is on a different level,” said Williams. Lewis is a fifth-year senior who dates back to the Chris Petersen days and says this is the strongest team bond he’s been a part of.
As disappointing as Boise State’s news is on the ticket sales front, the Broncos can be thankful they’re not San Jose State. When TV networks use a background scene for a graphic, it’s often some kind of wide shot of a stadium. During the Spartans’ 42-22 loss to South Florida Saturday, CBS Sports Network opted for a couple of big trees and blue sky. They didn’t dare show Spartan Stadium, which announced attendance at 13,377. Most of them had to be on the press box side of the stadium, because on the far side there were just scattered little dots. Nobody home. I don’t know how San Jose State survives in the FBS.
Idaho’s defense is poised to carry the flag as much as its vaunted offense as the 2017 season opens Thursday night in the Kibbie Dome against Sacramento State. It starts with Akeem Coleman, who has been added to the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award that goes to the nation’s top defensive end. Coleman is one of only four Group of 5 players to make the cut after a Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year season that saw him lead the Vandals with eight sacks. Idaho should have its way with the Sac State offense, a lukewarm one from the FCS. The Hornets averaged 373 yards and 24 points per game last season.
BYU produced a very average effort Saturday in its 20-6 win over Portland State in Provo. The Cougars will have to be superhuman this week as they face LSU. The game, the AdvoCareTexas Kickoff, was supposed to be played at NRG Stadium in Houston this Saturday. Because of the flood devastation in Houston (they have much more important things than football to worry about down there), the contest has been moved to the Superdome in New Orleans. Let’s just say that’s much less of a neutral site. This will be a supreme test for Eagle High grad Tanner Mangum, who was 16-of-27 for 194 yards and a touchdown versus the Vikings.
Jeremy McNichols is losing ground in his quest to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a fifth-round draft pick. McNichols has learned that Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, the former Boise State head man, doesn’t play favorites just because a guy is a one-time Bronco star. In Saturday’s 13-9 loss to Cleveland, McNichols came in and lost a yard on a rushing attempt, and then he missed a block in pass protection on the next play, leading to a sack. Koetter promptly pulled him. “He’s doing fine on special teams—he’s just making too many mistakes on offense,” said Koetter after the game. “He’s going to play a lot on Thursday night, and he’s going to get one final chance to show what he can do.” Then the nailbiting begins, as NFL cuts all happen at the same time this year. Rosters must be reduced from 90 players to 53 by 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Boise Hawks need three wins in their final four games to avoid a third straight losing season. However, the Hawks are still in the race for a spot in the Northwest League Playoffs. Boise beat Vancouver again 8-6 last night and is tied with Eugene for second place in the second-half South Division standings. Hillboro is in first, but the Hops are already in the postseason because they won the first-half race. So the division’s other spot will be filled by the second-place club. It ain’t over yet.
This Day In Sports…August 29, 2004:
Albert Pujols becomes only the fourth player in big league history to collect 100 RBIs in each of his first four seasons, joining Hall of Famers Al Simmons, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Pujols did it with his 40th home run of the season, a solo shot that helped St. Louis to a 4-0 victory at Pittsburgh. There are lots of “fours” here—the Cardinals would go on to the World Series, where they’d be swept in four games by Boston as the Red Sox ended the “Curse of the Bambino.”
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)